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A special day at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair
People with disabilities get to experience the midway without large crowds
102214 FAIR SPECIAL NEEDS 01 web
Victory Lundy, 9, of Nevils Elementary School, is all smiles while taking a merry-go-round ride with Mandy Boyles as local students and adults with special needs enjoy some exclusive time at the 2014 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Wednesday morning. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

For people with disabilities, dealing with the fair's crowded midway, loud noise and general confusion can be a challenge.

But the Statesboro Kiwanis Club makes sure each year that people with special needs get to enjoy the fair safely and securely.

On Wednesday morning, dozens of children and adults with disabilities enjoyed a visit to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. It was a breezy, sunny day, and they were able to see the sights and experience the fair atmosphere without crowds, said Statesboro Kiwanis Club member Connie Saunders.

Saunders took over this part of the fair about three years ago from club member Sylvia Brown, who supervised the special needs fair visit for years. With a teaching background, Saunders said she especially appreciates the opportunity to see people with physical and other disabilities enjoying the fair.

Wednesday morning's visitors were treated to a magic show, a stop by the petting zoo, a visit to the poultry barn, a ride on the carousel and lunch.

Screams of delight were heard as children and adults, separated into groups, took turns on the carousel. A magician brought giggles, especially when he used people from the audience in his act. Everyone appeared to be fascinated by the menagerie at Sam's Path petting zoo, where lemurs cavorted, a kookaburra laughed, miniature goats and horses nibbled treats from small hands, and a colorful parrot watched over the crowd.

"They look forward to this every year," said Tommyette McKoy, an employee with High Hope school who helped bring a group to the fair. "The excitement starts when they get a letter inviting them and, as the weather changes, they know it's time for the fair."

Bringing people in wheelchairs or who require other accommodations to the fairgrounds, not having to fight a crowded midway or deal with loud noise and lights that may be overwhelming, means a great deal, she said.

"They enjoy the fair without being in such a crowd of people," Saunders said. "It's well-supervised, good entertainment and some of it is educational."

Tinishia Shaw, a client at High Hope, said she especially enjoyed the shows.

"I enjoyed everything and we got to ride the carousel," she said. "I like the magician stuff because he asks us to be involved."

Saunders agreed that the interaction is a positive thing.

"It is wonderful for them to be involved," she said.

"I appreciate that it is just for them," McKoy said. "We're able to move around with the wheelchairs," and people with special needs can enjoy a moment where they "are just like everyone else."

Saunders said the day for people with disabilities is just one way the Kiwanis Club gives back to the community. The visit on Wednesday is free of charge, and the club provides lunch.

"The Statesboro Kiwanis Club is a service club" and "every penny (raised by the fair, after expenses) is turned back into the community," she said.

Visitors from several area counties participated in the event.

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.


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